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The Blind Piper

Limerick PiperYesterday I was showing a friend around our house. In the Common Room is a copy of the painting "The Blind Piper" by Galway painter Patrick Haverty. My visitor fell in love with it.

Pádraig O'Briain was born in Co. Clare about 1773. His parents were comfortable farmers and he was educated at a local hedge school. He was a good scholar, and loved music, especially the pipes. But he suffered from an eye complaint which led to total blindness in his twenties. To earn a living he turned his love for music to use. He went to Limerick and became a familiar figure as a street musician playing the pipes.

Galway painter Patrick J. Haverty saw him performing and was impressed by O'Briain's fine features and noble build and painted him. In the romantic spirit of the time the piper is seen playing against a background of an attractive scene, and not in the reality of the cold damp streets of the city.


Blind folks were often able to make a living by playing intruments. The great harper, Turlough O'Carolan (the Irish Bach) was blind then there's the blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson and of course these days, the amazing Stevie Wonder.

Henry Mayhew wrote of a remarkable old hurdy gurdy player known as Blind Sarah, who had her own objects of charity, poor though she was.
But I think it's the last thing I would want myself.
I'm not sure- I suspect my hearing would be the sense I'd least like to lose.